Cary Parks and Recreation: Focus on Fitness & Wellness
If you look at the numbers in the Town of Cary, the opportunities to be fit really add up! Cary offers 370 miles of sidewalks, 25 miles of marked bicycle lanes, 2,400 acres of combined public recreation areas, more than 50 miles of trails and greenways, and over 2,100 recreation programs promoting physical activity and healthy eating. Many of those programs are thanks to the town’s Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources Department, an active AHA partner.
Fitness Trail at Cary’s Spring Daze festival
“The town’s Gold Level Fit Community designation reinforces the fact that Cary is focusing on fitness and wellness, especially within parks and recreation,” commented Sam Trogdon, supervisor of Cary’s Bond Park Community Center. The Town of Cary and Mecklenburg County are the first communities in the state to receive the Gold Level designation from the NC Health and Wellness Trust Fund. (Cary was initially named a Fit Community in 2007 for the three-year period, and then achieved the new Gold level status for 2010-2013 after a rigorous application process.) The Fit Community designation promotes physical activity, healthy eating, and tobacco-free programs.
Healthy Foods and Fitness Trail at Spring Daze
The launch of Cary’s new Fit Concessionaire program at the town’s Spring Daze Arts & Crafts Festival, April 30 at Bond Park, is the result of the town’s effort to integrate healthy eating into festivals and programs. This year, Cary invited groups selling concessions for the popular festival to participate by offering a number of healthy food options, Trogdon said. “Close to 50% of the booth vendors that have submitted an application want to participate in the Fit Concessionaire program. Through AHA and Cooperative Extension, we are providing them with nutritionists and technical assistance so they can meet the criteria or modify their food offerings,” he continued.
These healthy food choices fit right in with the Fitness Trail, which made its debut at Spring Daze last year and was such a hit that now it’s an annual feature at the event. (The Candy or Medicine booth in the photo was part of last year’s Fitness Trail.) Festival-goers can walk the fitness trail, taking their Fitness Passport with them, and learn about health and fitness at each booth, participate in various activities, and then get their passports stamped. At the end of the Fitness Trail, they can turn in their passport book for a prize and are entered for a grand prize drawing. “WakeMed Health & Hospitals is a huge partner in this event, along with Be Active NC and others,” Trogdon said.
Educating Young Cary Citizens
The Town of Cary also worked with AHA to create its AHA Camp Snack Game Plan, which offers families advice on healthy choices for snacks. Thousands of kids participate in Cary’s track-out and summer camps, and they each receive a copy of the Game Plan in their registration materials. The flier offers great suggestions for snacks and also compares the cost of a healthy snack to a typical snack—the healthy snack costs less! “I knew AHA had a flier on snacks for sports, and we thought it would be great to modify it for campers. It’s one of the ways we’re trying to educate adults and kids alike,” Trogdon said. Additional fliers on packing healthy snacks and lunches are also available on the town’s web site, along with all the fitness and wellness classes offered.
Western Wake AHA
In working with AHA, Trogdon thought it would be useful to gather a group of community members with interests specific to this part of the county. As a result, he now chairs the Western Wake AHA Work Group, which launched last August and includes individuals, organizations and businesses from Cary and nearby Morrisville who care about health and wellness.
Trogdon said the group already has launched the Brains and Bodies Award to recognize elementary and middle schools for their efforts to make schools a healthier place for students and staff alike. Applications are due April 1, and the WW AHA group will work together to score them before announcing winners June 1.
Anyone who wants to receive updates on fitness opportunities, sports leagues and programs at specific Cary facilities can sign up to receive Cary’s email updates. Plus details on all those miles of trails, classes for preschoolers through senior citizens and are all online at the Town of Cary web site.